In a rousing afternoon plenary, columnist Roger Cohen interviewed new voices for peace in Israeli and Palestinian civil society. While some of the panelists expressed skepticism that their own leaders were serious in their intentions to reach a peace deal, they were unanimous in their belief that the two-state solution remains necessary and possible.
Labor MK Stav Shaffir, who helped to organize the 2011 protests for social justice, said that if hundreds of thousands of Israelis could assemble in the streets for that issue, then the younger generation could also help to push for peace. “We want this to end in an agreement, a real agreement, for the long term,” she said. “It’s the role of our generation to do that.”
Director of Policy and Communications for Molad Mikhael Manekin urged the audience to become more involved in the push for two states. “A precondition for hope,” he said, “is an understanding that you can lead the way, not just follow the other side.
Husam Zomlot, executive deputy commissioner of the Fatah Commission for International Affairs, echoed J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami’s call from the night before: “Hineini,” he said. “On behalf of many, many Palestinians we are here with you as partners.”
MK Ruth Calderon: “Something Very Different in Happening”
Knesset Member Ruth Calderon of Yesh Atid is attending her first J Street conference and after a day and a half she had already concluded that the growth of our movement was an important positive development for the American Jewish community.
“Something very different and new is happening. I smell something new,” she said in a breakout session that discussed the right of American Jews to criticize Israel.
“We are all partners in this project and you have a share. You can be a silent partner or an active shareholder,” she said.
J Street, Calderon said, was already much more than a grassroots movement that had succeeded in electrifying thousands of young American Jews. It was also becoming a considerable factor in US and Israeli politics.